USA L-1 Visa: A Guide to Intra-Company Transfers

Understanding the L-1 Visa

If you are a nonimmigrant worker seeking to transfer to the United States as an intracompany transferee, the L-1 visa may be the right option for you. The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows multinational companies to transfer foreign employees to their U.S. offices.

To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must have worked for the foreign company for at least one year within the past three years and be coming to work for a related U.S. company. There are two types of L-1 visas: L-1A for executives and managers, and L-1B for specialized knowledge workers.

L-1A and L-1B Differences

The L-1A visa is for executives and managers who are coming to the United States to manage a U.S. office or to establish a new one. To qualify for the L-1A visa, you must be able to demonstrate that you will be managing a major function or a significant portion of the U.S. company.

On the other hand, the L-1B visa is for specialized knowledge workers who are coming to the United States to work in a specialized area that requires specialized knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, or management. To qualify for the L-1B visa, you must be able to demonstrate that you have specialized knowledge that is not readily available in the United States.

In conclusion, the L-1 visa is an excellent option for multinational companies seeking to transfer foreign employees to their U.S. offices. The L-1A visa is for executives and managers, while the L-1B visa is for specialized knowledge workers. If you are considering an L-1 visa, be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that you meet all the requirements.

Eligibility Criteria for L-1 Visa

If you are an employee of a foreign company and your employer is opening a new office or branch in the United States, you may be eligible for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers. To be eligible for an L-1 visa, you must meet certain criteria as outlined below.

Criteria for Specialized Knowledge Employees

To qualify as a specialized knowledge employee, you must have specialized knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its application in international markets, or an advanced level of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. You must also have at least one year of continuous employment with the foreign company within the three years preceding your application for the L-1 visa.

Criteria for Executives and Managers

To qualify as an executive or manager, you must have been employed in an executive or managerial capacity for at least one year within the three years preceding your application for the L-1 visa. You must also be coming to the United States to provide services in an executive or managerial capacity for a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

In addition to the above criteria, both specialized knowledge employees and executives/managers must meet the following requirements:

  • The U.S. employer must be a qualifying organization, meaning it is a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company where you currently work or have worked in the past.
  • The foreign company where you currently work or have worked in the past must have a qualifying relationship with the U.S. employer.
  • You must be coming to the United States to work for the same employer or a qualifying organization in a capacity that is managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge.
  • You must have worked for the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the three years preceding your application for the L-1 visa.

It is important to note that the L-1 visa is not available to professionals who do not meet the qualifications for specialized knowledge, executives, or managers. If you do not meet the eligibility criteria for the L-1 visa, you may want to consider other visa options that may be available to you.

Application Process for L-1 Visa

If you are planning to apply for an L-1 visa, there are two types of petitions available to you: Individual Petitions and Blanket Petitions. In this section, we will discuss both types of petitions and the application process for each.

Individual Petitions

Individual petitions are filed by the U.S. office of the employer. The employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on behalf of the employee. The employee cannot file this petition on their own. The petition must include evidence that the employee has worked for the employer for at least one continuous year within the last three years and that they will be working in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity in the U.S. office.

Once the petition is approved by the USCIS, the employee can apply for the L-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. The employee must provide the approved Form I-129 petition, a valid passport, a photo, and any other supporting documents requested by the embassy or consulate.

Blanket Petitions

Blanket petitions are filed by the employer and allow for multiple employees to be included in one petition. The employer must file Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, on behalf of the employee. The employee cannot file this petition on their own. The petition must include evidence that the employer has an established relationship with the USCIS and that the employer has a need for multiple L-1 workers.

Once the blanket petition is approved by the USCIS, the employee can apply for the L-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. The employee must provide the approved Form I-129S petition, a valid passport, a photo, and any other supporting documents requested by the embassy or consulate.

It is important to note that the application process for an L-1 visa can be complex and time-consuming. It is recommended that you work with an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that your application is complete and accurate.

Establishing a New Office in the U.S.

As an international company, you may be interested in establishing a new office in the United States to expand your operations and take advantage of the American market. The L-1 visa is a great option for intra-company transfers, which allows you to transfer employees from your foreign company to your new U.S. office.

To qualify for the L-1 visa, you must show that you have a qualifying relationship with the foreign company, such as being a parent company, subsidiary, affiliate, branch, or division. You must also demonstrate that the U.S. office will be a viable and active operation, with physical premises and a business plan that includes financial projections, marketing strategies, and staffing requirements.

In order to establish a new office, you will need to invest in the U.S. market and secure a physical location for your new office. This could involve leasing or purchasing property, hiring local staff, and complying with local regulations and zoning laws. You may also need to register your business with the appropriate state and federal agencies and obtain any necessary licenses and permits.

It is important to note that the L-1 visa is not a substitute for a work visa, and your employees will still need to obtain the appropriate work authorization to legally work in the United States. However, the L-1 visa can provide a pathway for your employees to transfer to the U.S. office and begin working while they apply for the necessary work visa.

Overall, establishing a new office in the United States can be a complex and challenging process, but the L-1 visa can provide a valuable tool for intra-company transfers and help you expand your business into the American market.

Duration and Extensions of L-1 Visa

When you are granted an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers, your initial stay in the United States is usually approved for a period of up to three years. However, the initial stay may be shorter if your employer’s petition for L-1 classification is approved for a shorter period of time.

Once your initial stay in the U.S. is over, you may be eligible for an extension of your L-1 visa. Extensions of L-1 visas are usually granted in increments of up to two years, with a maximum total stay of seven years. However, it is important to note that the maximum initial stay and the maximum total stay are not the same.

If you are granted an L-1 visa with an initial stay of less than three years, you may be eligible to apply for an extension of stay to reach the maximum total stay of seven years. However, if you are granted an L-1 visa with an initial stay of three years or more, you will not be eligible for an extension of stay beyond the maximum total stay of seven years.

It is important to note that the duration of your L-1 visa stay may be affected by a variety of factors, including the duration of your employer’s need for your services in the U.S. and the length of time required to complete the purpose of your stay.

If you need to extend your stay beyond the maximum total stay of seven years, you may be required to depart the U.S. for a period of at least one year before being eligible to apply for another L-1 visa.

In summary, the duration and extensions of L-1 visas for intra-company transfers depend on several factors, including the initial stay, extensions, and the maximum total stay of seven years. It is important to keep in mind that the duration of your stay may be affected by your employer’s need for your services and the purpose of your stay.

L-1 Visa and Permanent Residency

If you are an L-1 visa holder, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency or a green card in the United States. One of the benefits of the L-1 visa is that it allows for dual intent, which means that you can have the intention to stay in the US temporarily for work purposes, while also having the intention to apply for permanent residency in the future.

To apply for permanent residency as an L-1 visa holder, you will need to go through a process that includes labor certification and form I-140. Labor certification is a process that requires your employer to prove that there are no qualified US workers who are willing and able to fill the position that you hold. Form I-140 is a petition that your employer will need to file with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prove that you are eligible for permanent residency.

Once your form I-140 is approved, you will need to apply for an immigrant visa or adjust your status to permanent residency. The process for obtaining an immigrant visa or adjusting your status can be complex and time-consuming, but it is possible for L-1 visa holders to obtain permanent residency in the US.

It is important to note that not all L-1 visa holders will be eligible for permanent residency. The eligibility requirements for permanent residency vary depending on a number of factors, including your job position, your employer, and your individual circumstances. Additionally, the process for obtaining permanent residency can be expensive, and it may take several years to complete.

If you are interested in obtaining permanent residency as an L-1 visa holder, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss your options and determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances.

Dependents of L-1 Visa Holders

If you are an L-1 visa holder, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible to accompany you to the United States on an L-2 visa. Your dependents may also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by submitting Form I-765.

With an EAD, your dependents may work in the United States, but it is important to note that their employment is not a guarantee and is subject to approval by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

It is also important to note that your dependents must maintain their L-2 visa status in order to remain in the United States. This means that they must not engage in unauthorized employment and must depart the United States before their authorized stay period expires.

If your dependents wish to attend school in the United States, they may do so on an L-2 visa. However, they must first obtain a Form I-20 from the school they wish to attend and provide evidence of sufficient financial support.

In summary, as an L-1 visa holder, your dependents may accompany you to the United States on an L-2 visa and may apply for an EAD to work in the United States. They must also maintain their L-2 visa status and obtain proper authorization before engaging in employment or attending school.

Working in the U.S. with an L-1 Visa

If you are an employee of a foreign company and wish to work in the United States, you may be eligible for an L-1 visa. This visa is designed for intra-company transfers and allows you to work for a related U.S. employer for up to seven years.

To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must have been employed by the foreign company for at least one year in the past three years and be coming to the United States to work in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity. You must also be coming to work for a related U.S. employer, such as a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the foreign company.

Once you have obtained an L-1 visa, you can work for your U.S. employer on a full-time basis. Your job duties must be related to your executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity, and you must perform an essential function for the U.S. employer.

It is important to note that the L-1 visa is not a work authorization for any U.S. employer. You must work for the related U.S. employer that filed the petition on your behalf. If you wish to work for a different U.S. employer, you must obtain a new visa or change your status to another nonimmigrant category.

As an L-1 visa holder, you are allowed to travel in and out of the United States freely. However, you must maintain your foreign residence and intend to return to your home country once your visa expires.

In conclusion, the L-1 visa is a valuable option for foreign employees who wish to work in the United States for a related U.S. employer. If you meet the eligibility requirements and have a job offer from a related U.S. employer, you should consider applying for an L-1 visa.

Additional Information on L-1 Visa

If you are considering applying for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers, there are a few things you should know to help you prepare for the application process.

Premium Processing

If you need your L-1 visa application processed quickly, you may be able to take advantage of premium processing. This service can expedite the processing time for your application, but it does come with an additional fee.

Processing Time

The processing time for L-1 visa applications can vary depending on a number of factors, including the volume of applications being processed and the complexity of your case. It is important to plan ahead and submit your application as early as possible to avoid any delays.

Filing Fee

There is a filing fee associated with the L-1 visa application process. The fee may vary depending on the type of L-1 visa you are applying for and other factors. Be sure to check with the appropriate authorities to determine the exact fee for your application.

Required Documents

When applying for an L-1 visa, you will need to provide a number of documents to support your application. These may include proof of your employment with the company, documentation of the company’s operations and financials, and other relevant information. Be sure to carefully review the requirements for your specific type of L-1 visa to ensure that you provide all necessary documentation.

Travel

Once your L-1 visa has been approved, you will be able to travel to the United States for the duration of your visa. Be sure to keep your visa and other relevant documents with you at all times while traveling, as you may be required to present them to immigration officials upon arrival in the United States.

Overall, the L-1 visa application process can be complex and time-consuming, but with the right preparation and guidance, you can increase your chances of success. Be sure to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to help you navigate the process and ensure that your application is complete and accurate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers?

To qualify for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers, you must have worked for the foreign company for at least one continuous year within the past three years in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity. Additionally, you must be transferring to a related US company in a similar capacity.

What is the process for applying for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers?

The process for applying for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers involves submitting a petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the employee. The petition must include evidence of the employee’s qualifications and the relationship between the foreign and US companies. Once the petition is approved, the employee can apply for the L-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate.

Can I apply for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers while in the USA?

No, you cannot apply for an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers while in the USA. You must apply for the visa at a US embassy or consulate in your home country.

What are the differences between L-1A and L-1B visas for intra-company transfers?

The L-1A visa is for managers and executives, while the L-1B visa is for employees with specialized knowledge. The L-1A visa allows for a longer maximum stay of up to seven years, while the L-1B visa allows for a maximum stay of up to five years.

What are the travel restrictions for L-1 visa holders?

L-1 visa holders can travel freely in and out of the USA as long as their visa is valid. However, if they leave the USA for an extended period of time, they may be subject to additional scrutiny when re-entering the country.

How much does it cost to obtain an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers?

The cost of obtaining an L-1 visa for intra-company transfers varies depending on the specific circumstances of the case. In addition to the USCIS petition fee, there may be additional fees for visa processing and other related expenses.

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